For some NFL teams, the offseason has been a time of renewed optimism. Of acquisitions that have filled needs and improved rosters. Of new schemes and strategies. Of getting better.
For a time, the New York Jets had the look of one of those teams. After hiring Adam Gase as head coach in January, the Jets were active in free agency and made good use of their top-five pick in the draft.
Things were looking up for Gang Green.
Of late, however, things have spiraled in the opposite direction. General manager Mike Maccagnan was abruptly fired, which seemingly confirmed the existence of a rift between Gase and the front office. Then it was reported that the search for a new head coach had begun long before the team fired Todd Bowles—and was conducted in part without Maccagnan's knowledge.
Hope and optimism were replaced by confusion and despair in the fanbase. The momentum the team appeared to have built was replaced with the same derision and doubt that's become so common around the Jets in recent years.
These Jets are no different. The same dysfunctional mess they were before.
Arguably the most dysfunctional team in all of the NFL.
Back in March, the team made big splashes with the signings of tailback Le'Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley. With the third pick in the draft, the Jets brought in defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, considered by some the No. 1 overall prospect in the class.
Yes, an argument can be made that Bell and Mosley were overpaid. But a counterargument can be made that it was necessary—it wasn't the first time a bad team sweetened the pot to land big names in free agency.
Any good feelings in Florham Park didn't last long.
First came Maccagnan's firing. There had been reports circulating for some time of a rift between the new head coach and general manager—reports Gase vehemently denied.
"I don't know who decides that—gets to put that stuff out there. It kind of pisses me off a little bit," Gase said, via SNY. "Because we have discussions on everything. That's our job. We have to work through so much stuff. That's what we got to do. That's all we've done since we've been here. Since we've started, we just constantly were in communication."
Less than a week after Gase said that, Maccagnan was shown the door.
Now, general managers get fired all the time. But it usually happens before massive financial investments are made in free agency—investments a new head coach reportedly doesn't agree with.
That's right—soon after Maccagnan was let go, rumors began to circulate that Gase wasn't a fan of the four-year, $52.5 million contract Bell received. As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported, Gase denied the Jets overpaid the 27-year-old, offering up this ringing endorsement:
"The contract was what it was. Everybody can criticize contracts all you want, but he's here. I'm excited he's here. I think our players are excited he's here. I know our coaches are. You get a chance to coach a great player, a guy that's done things that nobody's ever done in the league; we're excited for that opportunity. I'm excited to get him in the offense so I can start figuring out what else can we do with him. What hasn't he done? What can he be great at in this system?"
While he was at it, Gase, who was elevated to interim general manager in addition to his duties as head coach, also denied (via Andy Vasquez of NorthJersey.com) he had anything to do with Maccagnan's firing.
"That would be false," Gase said. "That's just not true."
Gase also made it clear he's not concerned with perceptions regarding the beginning of his tenure.
"I think our fans care if we win or lose," Gase said. "If we win games, nobody's going to remember this. I know that. Our job is to win. Our job is to win. That's it."
Mosley echoed a similar refrain, downplaying the dysfunction seemingly swirling around the front office.
"It doesn't affect us at all," Mosley said. "What's upstairs happened upstairs. We can't let upstairs or outside noise affect what we do in our locker room or inside the white lines, so that's all we've got to focus on."
Mosley also dismissed the possibility that like Bell, he (or more specifically, his contract) may not have been especially wanted by his new head coach.
"It doesn't matter. I'm here now," Mosley said. "[Gase] pretty much said, 'Don't listen to the media.' ... It doesn't really matter, honestly. What anybody says doesn't affect what I do on the field, so if we win games, the [offseason], I doubt it'll even matter."
Oh yeah. Winning should be no problem for a team that finished 4-12 last year and now has a head coach—with complete control over the roster—who has a career record of 23-25. Gase has no personnel experience and may not have wanted two of the team's better players to begin with.
Even if you think Maccagnan deserved to be let go (his tenure as general manager contained more misses than hits), the circumstances of his dismissal were haphazard—at best.
Buckets full of denials raining from the sky notwithstanding, to say the Gase era in New York has gotten off to a bumpy start is one whopper of an understatement.
And it gets better.
As the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta reported, the coaching search that led to Gase's hiring was a tragic comedy that began long before Bowles was fired in December.
According to Mehta's report, Jets CEO Christopher Johnson (who is running the team while his brother Woody serves as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom) orchestrated back-channel overtures to Kliff Kingsbury, Jim Harbaugh and other candidates. Maccagnan was aware of the pursuit of Kingsbury—but not of the others.
To say that's a bad look is an even bigger understatement than the last one. There's more melodrama at Jets HQ than in an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful. The owner's brother pursued coaches without bothering to tell the GM. The new head coach may or may not have then gotten said GM fired—but not until after that GM made decisions that cost the franchise well over $100 million in contracts.
What personnel evaluator worth their salt is going to want any part of this circus?
To be fair, the Jets aren't the only team that has had a...let's go with "puzzling" offseason. The Oakland Raiders decided the best way to demonstrate their newfound commitment to building a winning culture was to sign paragon of high character Richie Incognito.
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman traded one of the league's best wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. for safety Jabrill Peppers and two draft picks (who turned into defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and edge-rusher Oshane Ximines)—and that may not be the worst move he's made this offseason.
The Jets saw the Giants making a play to wrest the title of the Big Apple's most dysfunctional team from them and said, "Hold my beer." The perception of the organization is again that of a hot mess from the top down, and while the players can say what goes on in the front office doesn't affect what happens on the field, that doesn't make it so.
It wasn't that long ago that it appeared the Jets were trending upward. That their climb back to respectability and (one day) contention had begun.
Now it appears the only title the Jets will be contending for any time soon is that of the NFL's most dysfunctional franchise.